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PETER NEVSKY AND THE TRUE STORY OF THE RUSSIAN MOON LANDING

Sweeping, amusing, at last quite moving mock epic about a Russian spacecraft that shoots for the moon 60 hours before Apollo II lifts off from Houston—and then slowly runs out of luck when entering lunar orbit. Batchelor's staggeringly authentic re-creation of what purports to be the Russian space program matches his well-received earlier successes with historical fiction (1983's The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica and 1985's Niagara Falls-Civil War epic American Falls); here, intaglio craftsmanship shows everywhere—though detail never hinders the pace. A raw innocent, cosmonaut Peter Nevsky, 22, arrives at Starry Town, the USSR's skimpy space center, and finds himself entangled in family politics that bring on a national disaster. A major plot turn should remain veiled here, but let it be said that Peter's surprising tie with the half-insane, evil Mme. Eudaemonia Romodanovsky (whose inapt first name means Good Demon and who is being romantically pursued by the equally evil General Iagoda of State Security) brings plenty of Dostoevskian clout to the page. Iagoda at Eudaemonia's behest has Peter and his beloved Katya kidnapped, beaten, and imprisoned, and Katya dies. Meanwhile, Peter's other large tie is with his three drunken ``uncles,'' the troika of former air aces now at the top of the cosmonaut ladder and earmarked for the moon shot. Peter's father was the finest Russian air ace of WW II and the ``uncles'' are his godfathers. Batchelor spells out marvelously the many competing directorates in Russian politics circa 1963 and shows how rival agencies in a madhouse of surreal allegiances could launch secret high-weaponry wars among themselves without upsetting the nation. The Swiftian final deathtrip to the moon by Peter's three worn-out, broken-down uncles is unforgettable. Superbly bolted-together fantasy you could bang with a wrench.

Pub Date: May 14, 1993

ISBN: 0-8050-2141-8

Page Count: 480

Publisher: Henry Holt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15, 1993

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MAGIC HOUR

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Sisters work together to solve a child-abandonment case.

Ellie and Julia Cates have never been close. Julia is shy and brainy; Ellie gets by on charm and looks. Their differences must be tossed aside when a traumatized young girl wanders in from the forest into their hometown in Washington. The sisters’ professional skills are put to the test. Julia is a world-renowned child psychologist who has lost her edge. She is reeling from a case that went publicly sour. Though she was cleared of all wrongdoing, Julia’s name was tarnished, forcing her to shutter her Beverly Hills practice. Ellie Barton is the local police chief in Rain Valley, who’s never faced a tougher case. This is her chance to prove she is more than just a fading homecoming queen, but a scarcity of clues and a reluctant victim make locating the girl’s parents nearly impossible. Ellie places an SOS call to her sister; she needs an expert to rehabilitate this wild-child who has been living outside of civilization for years. Confronted with her professional demons, Julia once again has the opportunity to display her talents and salvage her reputation. Hannah (The Things We Do for Love, 2004, etc.) is at her best when writing from the girl’s perspective. The feral wolf-child keeps the reader interested long after the other, transparent characters have grown tiresome. Hannah’s torturously over-written romance passages are stale, but there are surprises in store as the sisters set about unearthing Alice’s past and creating a home for her.

Wacky plot keeps the pages turning and enduring schmaltzy romantic sequences.

Pub Date: March 1, 2006

ISBN: 0-345-46752-3

Page Count: 400

Publisher: Ballantine

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2005

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THE CATCHER IN THE RYE

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

A violent surfacing of adolescence (which has little in common with Tarkington's earlier, broadly comic, Seventeen) has a compulsive impact.

"Nobody big except me" is the dream world of Holden Caulfield and his first person story is down to the basic, drab English of the pre-collegiate. For Holden is now being bounced from fancy prep, and, after a vicious evening with hall- and roommates, heads for New York to try to keep his latest failure from his parents. He tries to have a wild evening (all he does is pay the check), is terrorized by the hotel elevator man and his on-call whore, has a date with a girl he likes—and hates, sees his 10 year old sister, Phoebe. He also visits a sympathetic English teacher after trying on a drunken session, and when he keeps his date with Phoebe, who turns up with her suitcase to join him on his flight, he heads home to a hospital siege. This is tender and true, and impossible, in its picture of the old hells of young boys, the lonesomeness and tentative attempts to be mature and secure, the awful block between youth and being grown-up, the fright and sickness that humans and their behavior cause the challenging, the dramatization of the big bang. It is a sorry little worm's view of the off-beat of adult pressure, of contemporary strictures and conformity, of sentiment….

A strict report, worthy of sympathy.

Pub Date: June 15, 1951

ISBN: 0316769177

Page Count: -

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: Nov. 2, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1951

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